Supporting agriculture, Ambassadors support ag industry
Agriculture is an important industry in the Washakie County. For many years, the Worland-Ten Sleep Chamber of Commerce had an agriculture committee to focus on important issues for the community.
However, the committee slowly started to fall apart and fall on the backburner.
Jim Gill, then a UW Extension educator, saw the downfall of the committee and began to look for a way to bolster the ag community.
“At the same time the ag committee began to degrade, we also lost the Wyoming Bull Test here in Worland,” Jim explains.
When the test was being conducted, a producer educational forum was also held to provide information on the latest information in the cattle industry.
“We did a nice program in conjunction with the test,” Jim says, “but when the test was no longer happening, that ended.”
“After the end of the test, I wanted to continue to do educational program,” he continues.
The result of Gill’s idea helped the Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassadors to solidify and become an important part of the ag community.
WESTI Ag Days
To carry on the tradition of an education seminar, a group of agriculture industry stakeholders formed WESTI Ag Days, an event that is held in February each year.
“When I started talking about putting on this seminar, the Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassador group also joined in. At the time, they were going but not a big group,” Jim says. “The Ambassadors wanted to partner up for the event.”
The Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassadors included a number of producers and industry members, and Gill says those people were involved in the community and in fundraising efforts, but they hadn’t been involved in a big effort to that point.
Original board members for the Ambassadors included Bill Glanz, then publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, MillerCoors Agronomist Tim Spade and Terrill Gibbons, owners of the Ford and New Holland dealership. Other community members were also involved, and Gill notes they began to work toward putting on a great event.
One of the important aspects putting on an event like WESTI Ag Days is the funding to bring in speakers and supplies for the event, as well as support from the community.
“An endeavor like this takes money to put together,” Jim says. “The Ag Ambassadors were responsible for helping to raise money. At the same time, our merchants in the Worland area have been incredibly supportive in helping us to sponsor the event.”
In addition to helping coordinate WESTI Ag Days, the Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassadors also hold an appreciation dinner for the ag community in the south Bighorn Basin.
“The dinner is free to all producers,” Jim adds. “We want to honor them for their hard work over the past year.”
The event is held yearly in conjunction with WESTI Ag Days.
Currently, over 20 people are members of the Ag Ambassadors, and almost 15 are incredibly active. Members primarily live in Worland, Manderson, Thermopolis and Basin, representing the southern end of the Bighorn Basin.
“Our members include producers, bankers, Extension educators and ag industry supporters,” Jim explains. “We are a volunteer organization, and these people dedicate their time to these efforts.”
Jim continues, “Our mission has always been to emphasize how important the ag industry is to the economy in this area. I think we’ve done a good job of promoting agriculture.”
While the task hasn’t been easy, Jim adds that they continue to push forward to accomplish their goals.
The Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassadors also work to help increase awareness of agriculture through tours.
“Though we don’t do it every year, quite often we have an ag tour in the summer,” Jim adds. “We tour a variety of ag operations. The last tour, we looked at Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby, and we toured the canal improvement projects in the Worland area.”
Tours also visit operations like feedlot, production facilities and farms.
“Our tours really looked to educate locals about the agriculture in our area,” says Jim.
An additional activity that the Ambassadors worked on was a signage project to help people identify the crops being grown in the area.
“We had signs made and put up along the highway to identify what crops were being grown in surrounding fields,” says Jim. “We put those signs along the highways.”
Too often, Jim notes that people driving down the roads wonder, “What’s that green leafy plant?” The signs hope to identify the crops that are prevalent and important in the Basin.
“We’ve had a lot of good comments on the signs,” Jim said.
Into the future, Jim notes that the Bighorn Basin Ag Ambassadors hope to continue to support agriculture in the community.
“We hope to continue to help with WESTI Ag Days and to host the Ag Appreciation dinner,” Jim mentions. “And most importantly, we hope to continue promoting and showcasing agriculture in our community.”